tv Inside Story Al Jazeera June 7, 2014 11:30am-12:01pm EDT
i'm morgan radford. we leave you now with live pictures from winston-salem, north carolina, where the memorial service is being held for the late poet dr. maya languag my maya angelou. >> the far north of europe - a place of extraordinary beauty - home to an astonishing array of plants and animals which have
survived largely thanks to the indigenous people of this area p the sami. to this day many sami follow herds of free-roaming reindeer, maintaining a tradition that has helped preserve their ancient environment. but in recent years a new species has arrived p the multinational. as this video shows the floodgates are open and mining companies are being invited to europe:s far north to exploit its riches - and right across lapland a way of is being pushed to the brink. every winter vast herds of reindeer descend from the scandinavian mountains to their winter pastures in the jokkmokk region of sweden just above the
arctic circle. thousands of animals converge under the watchful eyes of their sami herders. it's a pattern unchanged for centuries which now hangs in the balance. british company, beowulf mining, plans to build a giant of open pit iron ore mine, right in the middle of their winter pasture. according to environmentalist one of europe's last true wildernesses could be destroyed and a way of life lost forever. its autumn and the reindeer have been gathered in corals. >> sámi culture is very closely linked to the reindeer and the reindeer herding. we've been here for a very long time and the reindeer herding the reindeers they have formed this landscape - our biggest fear is that the the mine
would effectively cut off our migrating towards our winter pastures and also the mine itself and the infra-structure is where we have part of our reindeers in winter time. >> the mine also threatens the status of the laponia national park, a world heritage site, close by. for this is where the reindeer spend half the year. and according to unesco, laponia was awarded world heritage status because it is unquestionably the largest and best preserved area of transhumance - the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. beowulf has been test drilling in the area for several years.
the company chairman is less than enthusiastic about reindeer herding. >> what is the potential for growth in reindeer herding p will this go ahead and employ hundreds more people? no, no it won't. will mining? yes it will. in the regional capital, jokkmokk, the mine has become a divisive issue. at a time of austerity it is seen as a cash cow and a source of jobs by the government which seems determined to push ahead regardless of the concerns of the reindeer herders, although politicians say they take environmental issues very seriously. >> you have two sides to this because a lot of people in this area are also positive to mining and most of the sami people is negative to mining. you cant say yes to mining if you know that it hurts the laponia area you also have to prove also in the future that
you can keep reindeers passing though. >> i asked the governor if he thought it would be difficult for the sami to oppose the mine. >> there's a lot of money in the area and of course you know what - money talks (laughs) >> but it's not just the reindeer herders who oppose beowulf. this is the village of bjorkholmen, just 2 kilometers from the proposed mine. if it goes into production, one hundred and forty million tons of ore will be extracted right by the village's water supply, >> we have clean water here - we can drink the water in the lake - and not many place in sweden we can drink water from the lake - i am very sad, and all in bjorkholmen ,all people in bjorkholmen is sad because they
don't want to have a mine here. locals are fearful, not least because of comments made by beowulf's chairman at a mining conference in stockholm two years ago in which he appears to deny the existence of people like mrs forsberg. >> i show this slide primarily to the people in the uk and ireland because one of the big major questions i get is: what are the local people going to go ahead and say about this project? i show them this picture and i say what local people? this summer environmentalists from across scandinavia converged on jokkmokk to try to stop beowulf from drilling by blockading the access road to the drill site. >> i came because people are all over the planet destroying nature and the wilderness and our ability to survive in the long run on this planet. people in the area living a
round this mine or this proposed mine is not really happy about it and really appreciate that we come here and came with supplies, food and things we needed for the camp and were really supportive. >> a standoff lasting two months came to a head when police moved in, dragging protesters and locals away and demolishing a tower erected at the camp while protesters were still on it. much of this was filmed by a local sami. >> i knew that the police was on its way and i thought it was important to be there on set and see whatõs happening - the worst thing that stuck in my heart was when they bring away an old sami reindeer herder - he is 85 years old - and when the police grabbed him
and led him away i went very emotional, i got tears in my eyes because this is a guy that has fought in all his life against the timbre extracting and all other things that has happened in our lands. the swedish government, they are showing that they are just waiting for the mining company to knock on the door and then the swedish government just opens the door and says hey we have minerals come here and bring it out and we will help you to take away sami people who want to live in this area as they have done from the ice age. >> we do have a problem with the sami organization, basically they say no to everything, to everything - its very difficult to have a dialogue when the other side of the table says no to everything. perhaps a glimpse of what's in store for the region can be had a hundred miles north at kiruna,
sweden's northern most city. this is the site of europe's largest iron ore mine. every day thousands of tons of ore are dug up loaded onto trains and carried to the port of norvik to be shipped abroad. it generates millions for the government. there's just one problem, the mine has caused a fissure to open up, and as mining continues, this fissure is spreading towards the city. as extraordinary as it sounds, the entire city has got to be moved. kiruna is also an important sami cultural centre - there is even a sami theatre, one of only two in sweden. >> we all need culture - and a sami theatre makes it
possible for the samis to raise their voices in a way we couldn't have raised and if we didn't have the theatre. >> sadly this may well be one of the last plays to be performed here, for like everything else in kiruna - the theatre will have to go. >> it's weirder to move a city than to go to the moon - its all about the money and they don't care who its affecting and i think it will effect more than people probably realizes -ok to move a house but what about the land? what happens to that land? what happens to the lakes? the mountains, the mountains i just can't get a grip of it. >> now inroducing, the new al jazeea america mobile news app. get our exclusive in depth, reporting when you want it. a global perspective wherever you are.
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turned over to mining companies - right across scandinavia from norway to finland - this is euro mining, a trade fair in tampere finland's second city >> today in finland we have 41 mines and this mining sector has been growing steadily for the last 5 or 6 years and we in the finnish government have great expectation that mining is one of the growth areas also in future in finland. the total turnover of our mining companies is almost 2 billion euros. so at this moment it is vital. >> finland's biggest mining company is talvivaara, whose chief executive gave a keynote address at the fair. >> what has been lacking in western europe is our own
minerals and sources for minerals - and particularly now for instance uranium. - in europe there's hundreds of nuclear power plants which have to supply their uranium from outside europe and in this volatile world i think it would be safer to have our own source for nuclear power. >> this is talvivaara nickel mine. the ore in the ground is of such a low-grade that vast quantities of rock have to be dug up and crushed in order to remove a relatively small amount of nickel. the crushed rock is stacked into immense heaps, one point two kilometers long. the metal is extracted by a
process which combines natural bacteria with enormous quantities of chemicals. last year talvivaara consumed 762,000 tons of chemicals- a third of which was sulphuric acid. other potentially profitable metals are also present in the rock like zinc and uranium. at the planning stage there was no talk of mining uranium, but to the alarm of many local people a uranium processing plant has already been built. >> it's the biggest uranium ore in finland - so it has been listed by international atomic organizations and so on, but when talvivaara applied and received its mining permits uranium was not mentioned at all.
>> according to professor saarnisto, one of finlands' leading scientists, when rock which contains uranium is broken up, the radiation exposure increases dramatically. >> i have seen calculations that 85% of the radioactive material will remain in the tailings in the mine when the uranium ore has been taken away because you never can take away everything - most of the material is left in the mine - so this is a big risk. the gypsum pond at tavlviaara is a giant storage area where the mines toxic waste is supposed to be stored safely. last november cracks appeared in the dam wall and professor saarnisto's fear became a reality.
emergency workers were drafted in to saturate the area with lime in an attempt to contain what would become finland's biggest environmental disaster the accident sent shockwaves thoughout skandinavia. not least to the sami in sweden which in recent years has seen a uranium prospecting boom. at first the company denied there was a problem. nevertheless the area was sealed off and no one was allowed near the leak. days later, concerned locals breeched the exclusion zone to see for themselves. samples were collected and sent for analysis.
the results were shocking, a roll call for some of the deadliest chemicals in the world including, arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, manganese and of course uranium. antii lankinen, the local priest was one of the first on the ground. >> there is cadmium and very very substantial levels such levels that according to my knowledge never measured in finland and its orders of magnitude higher levels and - and cadmium causes cancer and its not nice to have in fish and the food chain.
this lethal cocktail found its way into the lakes and waterways adjacent to the mine. but talvivaara's chief executive seems less than troubled by this. >> i think we have managed to keep the uranium levels to natural levels and there's no significant and maybe some anomalies that were detected earlier and uranium is fairly easy metal to treat and remove from the solutions of waters - so its been highly exaggerated >> there is one ton of uranium, one thousand kilograms of uranium in the next two lakes south of talvivaara and most of it may have been precipitated so that its in the sediment and its getting to the possible creatures if there is anything alive in the on the bottom that,
it may come to the food chain >> raimo turvonen has fished in lake laakajarvi since his childhood - the rich waters of the lake, which is downstream from talvivaara used to provide an income and pleasure for many locals but now the fish have all but disappeared. >> how will this effect you personally? >> mr turvonen couldn't find the words to express his emotion but was
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one third of finland's territory is made up of lakes and rivers. these vast water ways form an immense reservoir of clean water unique in europe. being interconnected - they are highly vulnerable to pollution. >> finish people who inhabited this area they came by boat and these lakes have been our home area for 1000s of years and they
have been giving food and they have been giving possibility for transportation and so i think its the basis for finish identity. this particular lake and river system we are now rowing its if they fulfill their plans there will be about 10 mines polluting these rivers and lakes >> hannu hyvonen is one of finland's most celebrated environmental filmmakers, who has long campaigned to protect finland's rivers. >> this is still clean water, you can see the bottom here, this is clean drinkable water, lot of fish here, its like a
paradise. but not anymore in talvivaara - for me its biggest human rights violation we can face in our country. at the trade fair a panel discussion including talvivaara's chief entitled 'who believes in sustainable mining?' is underway. it's been billed bas open to comments from the public, but when hannu tries to address the panel he is thrown out. also at the fair, the environmental contribution of the year award has just been presented to drilling company, kati. ironically kati's contract work for anglo american, the world's
4th biggest mining company, threatens the very existence of a nature reserve. anglo american's nickel discovery, much of which lies deep below the marshlands of viaankiappa, a remote part of northern finland, exemplifies the problem facing the region - for while a mine would be worth millions to anglo american's shareholders, the reserve is part of the natura 2000 network, supposedly the centerpiece of eu nature & biodiversity policy. from her home at the edge of the reserve, teenager, riikka karpinen, has been fighting to save this precious wilderness. riikka's sami ancestors have lived here for centuries >> i was about 9 or 10 years old in this picture - this article tells how rich is it, how many different kind of birds it has.
>> riikka's campaign has helped draw attention to viiankiaapa, but it's an uneven fight, a teenager against a mining company with a turn over of billions. riikka took us to where kati where drilling on behalf of anglo american just meters from the reserve. >> this viankiaapa area is very wet area because this is mire and a swamp all around so if they are going to build a mine here it means that this whole area will be destroyed and of course because this area is wet all these damages would go very wide. >> riikka's neighbor a sami reindeer herder fears it will mean the end of herding in the area.
>> anglo american declined to participate in this film. but it's clear, that should the mine go ahead, this environment will change beyond all recognition >> this is just happening and we don't know here in lapland what is going to happen - those mining companies they know it but they don't tell it to the local people - so i'm really worried about what's going to happen and i'm also worried about it because i'm very young, i'm 19 years old and those people who made those decisions they are much older than me so i'm very worried that my generation is the generation which is going to carry all those responsibilities for what those companies has made here in lapland. >> europe's far north is still a spectacular environment, largely thanks to the people who have lived there for centuries - the sami. whether it can withstand the strategy its politicians seek to impose remains to be seen.